In Latest Insult, North Korea Targets South Korean Leader's Dress

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SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea issued a direct personal attack on the South's new president for the first time since her inauguration two weeks ago, saying on Wednesday that her "venomous swish of skirt" was to blame for rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The insult directed at President Park Geun-hye, the first woman to hold the office, added a curious sartorial element to the verbal barrage North Korea has been mounting since the United States and the South began a joint military exercise on March 1, followed by a new round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

"This frenzy kicked up by the South Korean warmongers is in no way irrelevant, with the venomous swish of skirt made by the one who again occupies" the presidential Blue House, the North's Ministry of the People's Armed Forces said in a statement, referring to Ms. Park. She returned to the residence as president on Feb. 25, about 33 years after her father, the former President Park Chung-hee, was assassinated.

The statement, which was carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, reiterated that the North would not give up its nuclear weapons, calling them a guarantee of security against the United States.

"Warmongers would be well advised to keep in mind that the D.P.R.K. is no longer restrained" by the 1953 Korean War armistice, which the North said it had nullified on Monday, the statement continued, using the initials for the North's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

In the high-strung language that North Korean official statements often adopt at times of tension with the outside world, sexism and personal vitriol are not uncommon. The country once called Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former United States secretary of state, a "minister in a skirt," and it deemed various senior American and South Korean officials to be "human scum," "war maniacs" and "running dogs." Lee Myung-bak, whom Ms. Park replaced as president, was often called a rat, and state news media ran cartoons that showed Mr. Lee being torn apart and soldiers firing rifles and hurling hand axes at his image.

But until now, North Korea had not attacked Ms. Park directly.

For her part, Ms. Park has reminded the North that the South was open to dialogue to "build trust," while vowing a strong response to any provocation and warning that the North's pursuit of nuclear weapons would end in "self-destruction." On Wednesday, Ms. Park's office stuck to the same line.

"If necessary, we plan to send a message to North Korea," said Kim Haing, a spokeswoman for Ms. Park, adding that the two Koreas still had communication lines open after the North cut off a Red Cross line and a hot line with the American military in South Korea in recent days.

Despite the tough talk on both sides, the inter-Korean border has been quiet, with no sign of hostilities erupting, officials said. Several hundred South Korean workers still commute across the border daily to work in a joint industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

South Korea said the North's threats were meant to press the United States and South Korea to return to the negotiating table and offer concessions. In the meantime, though, soldiers kept a lookout for a possible military attack like the artillery barrage fired at a South Korean border island in 2010 that killed four people.

North Korea wants the South to lift the trade and investment ban that Mr. Lee's government imposed after the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010, which killed 46 sailors; a North Korean torpedo attack was blamed. The North also demands that South Korea honor past promises of large-scale investment in the North.

Ms. Park's government says that North Korea must first win trust, and that provocations will only deepen its isolation.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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